Author Archives: amoyaan
I’m grateful to Janet Adams for contributing the following post on the topic of karma. I’ll be adding my own thoughts in my next post, in which I hope to demystify this familiar but widely misunderstood concept.
Karma: East and West Perspectives
by Janet Adams
Most people have some familiarity with the Vedic concept of karma. Many exotic concepts entered the consciousness of Westerners during the Romantic period of the 1800’s. The counter cultural revolution of the 1960’s reintroduced the use of these spiritual and philosophical terms, and the New Age Movement has continued the legacy. Karma is the physical manifestation of the law of cause and effect; and balance and harmony. It applies to the results of decisions reached and the attitude held by human beings, who have free will and choice. Karmic experience offers an individual to reconsider choices, attitudes and actions held to see if these decisions are founded in alignment with the laws of the system.
Karma might be seen as basically a gap in your understanding. Karma facilitates knowledge and understanding and only applies to the human kingdom, for people have the ability to exercise free will and to change results to suit them. Karma presents people with the opportunity to create results in relation to what they want. It encompasses the urge to know more about feelings and actions; the necessity to experience an action more fully and form different levels of understanding so that one’s knowledge and understanding grows. Karma guides people to align their thoughts and intent with the balance of coexistence. This makes it possible for people to project more harmonious thought and intent, which can then manifest through the materials, tools and processes of creation.
Karma cautions people against wrong doing and in turn presents them with the opportunity to do better. People live, exploring all forms of materiality through better understanding, learning how to influence, alter and maintain these forms in equilibrium and harmony. Evolution is crucial in enhancing people’s understanding and knowledge. The law of karma makes it possible for people to understand their experiences and to balance them out.
The concept of karma originated in the Vedic system of religion known to the West as Hinduism. In its major conception, karma refers to the physical, mental and spiritual system of neutral rebound or cause and effect, inherent within the bounds of time, space and causation. Human beings’ experience is governed by an immutable preservation and interplay of energy, vibration and actions. It is comparable to the golden rule that denies the chance of depending on fate for reservation of credible incidences. Western conceptions are attributed with absolute reason and determinism to the working of the cosmos.
Karma naturally implies reincarnation since thoughts and deeds in past lives will affect one’s current situation. Humanity comprises a collective grouping of karma and individuals in some cases might be seen as responsible for the tragedies and fortunes they experience, although the workings of karma are rather subtler than this. The concept of an inscrutable God figure is not necessary with the law of karma. It is vital to note that karma is not an instrument of a god, but rather the physical and spiritual physics of existence. As gravity governs the motions of heavenly bodies and objects on the surface of the earth, karma governs the motions and happenings of life, both inanimate and animate. Karma governs the unconscious and conscious, generating tendencies and actions that perpetuate.
Destiny and fate are better understood through the workings of karma. Many people have likened karma to a moral banking system, credit and debit of good and bad. Karma is both the root that binds and that which helps people escape bondage, through the performance of good deeds and noble intentions, using the functioning of cause and effect to to their highest advantage.
Janet Adams is a writer with a Masters Degree in Educational Science, who now uses her writing skills to serve students with an inexpensive essay writing service which helps college students in building a successful academic writing career.
It’s been a while. I’m sorry for such heinous blog neglect. Here’s a little update.
I’ve been working hard on my next novel, which is an extensive rewrite of a book I first drafted some years ago, called The Key of Alanar. I’ve already shared a little bit about this particular journey here. It’s a story that’s been with me since I was only about sixteen, and one that’s very close to my heart. I consider the version I wrote before to be a kind of skeleton version. I’m a better a writer now so it’s been interesting going back to revisit and resurrect it. While it’s the still same story with the same characters, I’ve added bits, taken bits away and endeavoured to make the prose tidier and the characterisation punchier.
I’ve found that it’s actually harder to go back and rewrite something from the past than it is to write something new from scratch. In many ways I’m a different person now and if I was to create it from scratch it would probably reflect that. It’s nevertheless something I’m very pleased with. It’s a real journey, a journey of the human spirit — from loss and lack through darkness and despair, to eventual redemption and wholeness. Sadistic as it sounds, I take my central character and torture him relentlessly, stripping everything away from him and putting him at the mercy of all kinds of demons, both inner and outer. I feel the ending is going to need some substantial adjustment to reflect changes in my own understanding since I first wrote it. It’ll be interesting. I’m looking forward to being able to share the book with the world, hopefully by the end of the year. It’s pretty epic in every regard.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my head down, studying, living and practising the teaching of vedanta, which is the most remarkable thing I’ve ever found in my life. Neither philosophy nor religion but a pramana, systematic and very logical means of self knowledge, vedanta has been leading people for thousands of years from the suffering to wholeness, simply by reorienting one’s point of self-identification from body/mind/emotions/ego/intellect (which are all objects perceivable to us) to awareness (that which perceives; the eternal subject). The moment I stumbled across vedanta, I realised I’d found what I’d been looking for for the best part of a lifetime. I knew instinctively that if this didn’t work for me, nothing would. And, assuming certain psychological qualifications are in place and one is committed to putting in the time and energy to make it work, it does actually work! I’ve seen it work on myself and others. It is the closest I’ve ever found to a science of consciousness and self realisation — and I speak as someone who studied psychology at degree level. It’s the greatest of gifts and I’m going to share some of my journey and what I’ve learned on this blog as and when I get the chance.
Until then I have a guest post to share on the nature of karma, and I will follow it up with my own post to clarify certain points and demystify something that just about every has heard of but which few understand properly, even in the world of spirituality. Hope everyone is enjoying the summer. It’s beautiful here. Every day is a gift.
The problem really isn’t life. The problem is our attitude to life. Life is simply what it is and it does what it does. It’s value neutral; a machine that just churns out experiences and events based upon an unfathomably complex chain of cause and effect dating all the way back to the origins of the universe and space/time.
There’s nothing personal about what happens.
The problem comes when we expect life to match up to our likes and dislikes, our wants and desires. We want life to be what we want it to be. But life doesn’t care what we want. Why should it? It’s so inconceivably vast and it’s got a heck of a lot on its plate, so our petty little likes and dislikes simply don’t factor into the equation. It gives us what we need and our experience is based upon innumerable factors and the fructification of so many past events, actions and karma.
That’s the nature of the machine–and this was a pretty horrifying realisation for me! I didn’t really want to hear that. It’s certainly not what they told us in The Secret. But since I don’t suddenly have the bank balance of Bill Gates, the sales figures of JK Rowling or the blissful radiance of Ramana Maharshi…I can conclude that the universe doesn’t quite work like The Secret would purport. It would seem a more mature perspective is this: life is what it is; and we can get with the program or suffer. Ouch. There are certain little things that I can change, but most things I cannot, and that includes my basic nature and the basic nature of life and others, which I simply have to accept, embrace and find a way to work around.
Life is pretty amazing. It’s given us everything. We were provided with a body, which is simply the most incredible feat of engineering in the universe. We were given a lifetime supply of oxygen, water and food…and we don’t have to do anything with it; our bodies know precisely how to distribute oxygen through our bloodstream and how to digest food and poop and sleep and all the rest of it. We were given parents and taken care of during our formative years. We were given people to love us, take care of us, as well as people to challenge us, force us to grow and learn and become all we can be. Yeah, life isn’t always easy, to put it mildly. But we’re never given challenges we can’t deal with. Speaking for myself, I have recently seen how the most difficult things, people and relationships in my life have been like the grit in the oyster that in time alchemises to create something beautiful and precious.
I was walking down the road the other week and it was raining. I noticed a neighbour had left out their washing, which was now soaking wet. I mused how twisted life can seem that way: we want one thing to happen (dry washing!) but life has other ideas. Then I saw that some little red tulips had seeded themselves in a flower bed outside my front door. And I realised how incredible life is; always sending beautiful little surprises our way, unbidden, unexpected — and sadly, for many people, often unnoticed. Next time it’s a clear night I recommend taking a look up at the starry sky. If that isn’t one of the most amazing gifts, then I don’t know what is.
So life gives us everything. It does everything. We don’t own any of it, either. It’s all just on loan to us, including our bodies. Realising that everything we have, and everything we appear to be is just a temporary loan and NOT something we’re ‘entitled’ to, not something that belongs to us, really shifts our attitude to life.
For me it has helped cultivate a real sense of wonder…and gratitude. Knowing that I’m not owed anything and that I don’t and can’t own anything here, makes me grateful for all the simple, everyday blessings that are all around. We have so much; more than we could ever realise. We actually need very little to get by in life, infinitely less than our hyper-consumer culture would have us believe.
It takes a clear mind to see things this way. When my mood gets low I might start to slip into seeing things through a darkened lens again. It’s easy to do that when the media feeds us nothing but the darkest and most disturbing aspects of human life and society via news outlets. That exists, sadly, yes. But it exists largely because we don’t know who we are…we don’t know how blessed we are to be alive…and because we buy into a vicious consumer mindset that conditions us to believe that no matter how much we have, we need more and better, leaving us perpetually dissatisfied, unfulfiled and empty. To me, the deluded mindset of materialism, consumerism and the unbridled capitalism that is causing such destruction to the planet, is no less than a crime against the human spirit. Even just seeing this, however, allows us to begin to transcend transform it.
Life is beautiful. We are beautiful. That’s the simple truth. Remember that, and have a great day.
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was this:
When you’re feeling low emotionally, don’t take your thoughts too seriously.
When our state of consciousness has dipped, our thinking is not clear; it becomes cloudy and distorted. We then tend to see the world as an unequivocally terrible place and we focus on the very worst in ourselves and in others. Whereas, when we feel lighter, freer and happier emotionally, our outlook and our view of the world/ourselves/others is radically different. It’s the very same world we’re inhabiting, and our situation and circumstances and those around us may be exactly the same…but we can see things in a far clearer, more balanced way.
Which suggests it’s not really the world that we actually experience — it’s our thinking that we experience. If we can ride out the storm and just take it easy until things balance out, then our minds will naturally be clearer, freer and more capable of making objective discernments and decisions.
I know it’s so easy to let our emotional state cripple us. I really love the Bhagavad Gita. It starts with Arjuna throwing his hands in the air as he’s about to go into battle and saying “to hell with this! I quit! I give up! I’m not gonna do this.” By his own admission his mind is “a mess” and he can’t see anything clearly anymore.
What does Krishna tell him? Basically this: “hey, you’re letting your emotions override your judgement and blind you to your duty, to your responsibilities and to your purpose. You’re wallowing in self-pity and this is unbecoming of the great soul that you are! Get up and do what you gotta do! Fight!”
This is maybe not the advice we want to hear but sometimes we need a splash of cold water in the face. The war of the Gita is a metaphor for the war we face every single day; the war being waged in our own minds and psyche. It’s the war between doing what we’re meant to do — following our dharma and pandering to the petty little likes and dislikes, desires and fears of the mind. I often think of it as the self-created disparity between who we are and who we choose to be in our daily lives.
It’s tremendously stressful and what we’re actually experiencing is an internal civil war. We’re pulled in different directions; our heart leading us in one direction and our unconscious conditioning leading us in the opposite direction. The result is confusion, pain and suffering and often an almost crippling sense of anxiety or depression. Modern society doesn’t give us any signposts with regard to our dharma…it’s too messed up by capitalism, materialism, greed and consumerism. In fact modern society is a large part of the problem, so we have to look beyond it…
In the next post I will reflect a bit more on the nature of the the problem and the age-old conflict of me vs life.
- 48 -
One who seeks knowledge
learns something new each day.
One who seeks the Tao
unlearns something new each day.
The practice of the Tao consists of daily diminishing;
less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
True mastery is achieved
by letting things take their natural course.
Often people talk about the things they’ve learned or acquired in life, whether it’s information, knowledge, objects or experience. The Tao Te Ching asks us to consider that perhaps the real key is unlearning things. It’s often the case that more we think we know, the less we actually do know. And so Lao Tzu is asking us to substitute our practice of daily accumulating for daily diminishing. Instead of continually adding to ourselves and our supposed knowledge of the world, we are actually subtracting from ourselves and letting go of all the things we think we know. Only in this state of complete openness can we approach the Tao, in much the same way that only an empty vessel can be filled.
From the moment we’re born, we are conditioned and socialised into the ‘ways of the world’ or, rather the ways of the particular society we’re born into. As children we’re like sponges, continually soaking in new information and knowledge; a lot of it useful and necessary, but much of it erroneous and harmful. There comes a point in our lives when we have to challenge the conditioning of our formative years, particularly if it is of a dysfunctional nature. This is where it becomes especially helpful to take on the practice of daily diminishing: consciously letting go of old thoughts, beliefs, habits, world-views and conditioned ways of seeing things and responding to life.
The less encumbered we are with the viewpoints, opinions and belief systems instilled in us, the freer we are and the easier it is to have a direct experience of reality as it is, without having our view of everything distorted by our various mental filters. The practice of daily diminishing makes it easier to enter the flow of life, to allow all things to be as they are, bestowing life the freedom to be what it is, and to recognise that we are not separate from any aspect of it.
- 47 -
Without opening your door,
you can know the whole world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the way of heaven.
The further you go,
the less you know.
The more knowledge you seek,
the less you understand.
The Sage understands without leaving,
sees clearly without looking,
accomplishes much without doing anything.
The further you travel, the more you strive and the more knowledge you try to accumulate, the further you actually distance yourself from realising the Tao. For Lao Tzu tells us the answers are not to be found ‘out there’, but only within ourselves. So, how is it possible to know the whole world and the way of the Tao without venturing outside our door? Why are we always told that the answers are within us?
Knowledge usually relates to the realm of facts, figures and quantifiable information. Truth or wisdom goes beyond mere information. When we seek truth, we seek to differentiate between reality and illusion. Only with truth, or Self-knowledge can we hope to understand the nature of our existence. We can gather as many facts and statistics about the apparent world as we like (and, yes, we actually can know the whole world without even leaving our house — by simply logging onto the internet!), but that doesn’t mean we know anything about the true nature of reality, only the realm of appearance.
From within the dream, we can learn everything there is to know about the dream itself, but that doesn’t mean we know that we’re dreaming or are aware of anything beyond the dream. Surface-level knowledge is of limited use. Truth, however, points to a deeper reality; that which exists prior to and beyond the dream-state.
So why is the truth to be found within us? Perhaps it is because we are the microcosm of the macrocosm. We are each miniature universes and contained within us are all the wonders and truths of the larger universe. The two are not separate. There is no ‘us’ and ‘the rest of the universe’. All such notions are but dualistic delusions created by the mind. The secrets of the universe and life are within us because we are the universe and we are life. There is no separation.
Everything that we perceive to be out there is only an appearance in our awareness. Awareness is the unifying factor. Without awareness, there would be no experience and no universe. The key is to explore the nature of that awareness and consciousness itself. Trace it to its source: know it, understand it and thus know and understand the baseline substratum on which all the experiences of your life—and the world and universe—appear like images on photographic film.
Seeking outwardly has a tendency to take us deeper into the dream occurring in consciousness. As Carl Jung said: “he who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakens.”
- 46 -
When a country is in harmony with the Tao
running horses are retired to till the fields.
When a country runs counter to the Tao
warhorses are bred outside the cities.
There is no greater calamity than
not knowing what is enough,
no greater curse than covetousness,
no greater tragedy than discontentment;
and the worst of all faults is wanting more – always.
Contentment alone is enough.
Indeed, the bliss of eternity
can be found in your contentment.
War is counter to the nature of the Tao. Its root is fear, the need to defend oneself (or as is usually the case, the need to defend one’s beliefs and viewpoints), greed, discontentment and our pathological craving for more and more. These afflictions of the mind lead us to conflict, war and eventual ruin.
Lao Tzu tells us that to be content with what we have is the key to the “bliss of eternity”. Contentment sows the seeds of happiness, never of conflict and war.
Our challenge is therefore to let go of the need to make ourselves right and others wrong, and to relinquish any tendencies toward greed and covetousness and be content with what we possess. This doesn’t mean we should never pursue anything in life, but that because we know that we’re already whole and complete, we’re clear that no object, acquisition or experience can make us any more or less than we innately are.
This could well be the choice between living in heaven or hell — both of which are states of mind. It’s a choice that no one else can make for us. It’s one that we must make each and every moment of our lives.
- 45 -
The greatest perfection seems imperfect,
yet its use is inexhaustible.
The greatest fullness seems empty,
yet its use is endless.
True straightness seems crooked.
True skill appears clumsy.
True eloquence seems awkward.
True wisdom seems foolish.
Stillness and tranquility set things in order
in the universe.
The Sage allows things to happen.
He shapes events as they come.
He steps out of the way
and allows the Tao to speak for itself.
Truth rarely comes in the shape and form it is expected. The function of the mind is to divide, compartmentalise and categorise that which is ultimately indivisible. Thus we fail to understand that seeming imperfection is part of an overriding perfection and the emptiness at the core of our being is actually the fullness of life in all its splendor.
We also tend to keep looking for things in all the wrong places. Because the mind has a notion of what life is, what it should to be and its assorted notions of right and wrong, true and false, it’s easy to miss the obvious and be deceived by the paradoxes of life. This verse invites us to consider the possibility that the greatest wisdom, perfection and truth might actually be the opposite of what we assume it to be.
The final paragraph re-emphasizes the way of the Sage, he or she who is at one with life. When the ‘person’ is set aside, the Tao is allowed to flow through the space previously occupied by notions of selfhood and ego. Stepping out the way means letting go of the ego’s need to be in the driving seat, and allowing the process of life, the Tao, to flow as it naturally does, unhindered, unobstructed. We then become like a flute, through which the breath of life sounds its melody. When we stop, allow and listen, it becomes clear that life is not so much coming from us as it is coming through us.
It’s been over 3 months since I posted one of these! Wow. I’ll get back to it now. My Tao Te Ching verses and commentary are collected in the following volume, now available as an ebook on Amazon and Smashwords. A print edition is coming soon!
The other day I came across a blog by an American Christian woman who wanted to be a writer. I was looking for a certain quote and I ended up on her site. Anyway, the most recent post was basically a rant about how she was giving up blogging because she’d spent two years trying to make it successful in the hopes of making a living from it. But she was completely frustrated and fed up because it hadn’t taken off. She believed that God had told her to create the blog and to focus on writing and she was very angry and pissed off at God because God hadn’t brought her the success she wanted. She felt disillusioned, angry and, in her own words ‘quite bitter’. So that was her final blog post, and perhaps not the most graceful of exits.
I found this interesting on a number of levels. One might argue that it was a fairly childish attitude yet I could relate to her on some levels. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, spending thousands of hours sitting alone scrawling on notebooks or typing on keypads, pouring my heart and soul onto paper or screen. I spent years trying to find a publisher for my first novel and eventually gave up. I wrote another novel and spent ages trying to find a publisher for that. Just around the point I’d almost given up, I eventually found one. Finally some success! Yay — go me! And then a year later my book was published, with virtually no promotion from said publisher, and despite my best efforts it wasn’t even remotely close to giving JK Rowling a run for her money in terms of sales. Argh, failure! Doh — woe is me. What’s up, God, you big pervert? You wanted me to write, you gave me ideas and characters and stories that I just couldn’t let go of until I’d clothed them in words, and you go to all the effort of arranging a publisher, only for it to go pretty much unnoticed in the great literary world?
Actually, unlike the blog lady, I’m not in the slightest bit bitter or pissed off. From the moment it was published I made a conscious choice not to get hung up on the results. Now, it would have been amazing if it had hit the top spot on the New York Times besteller list and Hollywood film producers had been knocking at my door. If I had any say in what happened — any say at all — that’s precisely what would have happened!
But, the sad truth is, the results of our actions are not up to us. They never have been and never will be. We’re in control of our actions (to an extent, anyway; as much of our behaviour and thinking is driven by our unconscious programming– but that’s really a whole other topic), but we have no say in what comes of those actions.
So what’s the point in worrying? It doesn’t make sense to get upset over something over which we have no control. We simply have to do our best and accept whatever comes; whatever life or ‘God’ decides to send our way. I’m actually very happy to have sold what books I have. I am happy that people read my blog and take an interest in my work. Because nobody has to. Everyone is busy and there are countless books being published and blogs being posted every moment. There’s so much out there — and a lot of it very good stuff, too — that I’m frankly honoured anyone would take the time to read anything I have to say.
I don’t really care about figures and sales and notions of success and failure — that’s not why I write. I write because I love to write. It’s my dharma, my purpose and passion. I love sharing ideas and the wisdom I’ve been gifted with along life’s journey. I love being able to write the stories that have fired my imagination and sharing them with others. To be pissed off at life because more people aren’t reading them would just be childish and silly. It would mean that I’m not doing what I do because I love doing it, but because I want certain results from it.
If the love and passion isn’t there — if what we do is simply a means to some other end — then I believe we ought to re-evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. If we’re not enjoying it, if we’re struggling away and filled with frustration and resentment, as the aforementioned blog lady was, then yeah, we probably should give it up and instead find something else we do enjoy doing, regardless of whether it becomes ‘successful’ or not.
And, after all, what is success anyway? Is it making a huge name for yourself and earning lots of money? That would be nice, certainly, but that alone doesn’t necessarily guarantee satisfaction. Money or no money, we all have a finite time in this world, and I believe success is using that time well and living well; being able to do what we love and enjoy, whether as a full-time career or as a cherished hobby or pastime. Losing the enjoyment out of preoccupation with achieving certain results is kind of sad — and yet a trap that’s so easy to fall into. Why not just relax and do what we love?
This is very much the spirit of karma yoga. Karma yoga is an attitude of mind which emphasises the fact that we have the right to act, but we have no say in the result of that action. The result is not up to us — it’s up to the field of life. When this truly sinks in, we realise it’s futile stressing and fretting about the results of our actions. All we can do is do what we love, what we feel most compelled to do, and what is right in terms of the situation, and let go of the result, trusting that whatever comes, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is what’s meant to come.
Of course, we all want a good outcome to our actions, otherwise what would be the point of doing it? But a mature mind realises that there are innumerable factors at work in any situation. No matter how much we might want something, it may simply be we’re not meant to get it. Every single person that buys a lottery ticket wants to win the jackpot, but there’s only one jackpot! So obviously there are going to be a heck of a lot of disappointed people. That’s just the nature of life.
In order to avoid unnecessary stress and becoming bitter and resentment at our perceived ‘failures’, a mature mindset is needed. Life is going to give us what it gives us, based on the interplay of countless unseen and interrelated variables altogether beyond our comprehension. This moment is exactly as it is because of an unfathomably vast chain of causes and effects stretching all the way back to the very beginning of the universe. It is as it is, because it can’t be any different.
So, as the great Joseph Campbell used to say, we have to follow our bliss. Follow our bliss, let go of the need for specific results and just let the universe do its thing — because it’s going to anyway! So let’s stop fretting and enjoy the game for what it is.
….Incidentally, since I’m on the subject I might as well steal the moment to indulge in some shameless self-promotion! :)
If you like my writing, check out my critically acclaimed novel ELADRIA, available in paperback or low-price ebook (seriously, it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee and will provide far longer lasting stimulation!). Or, even cheaper — two free short stories which I think are kind of cool.
I’ve also just reduced the price of my translation/commentary of the Tao Te Ching and corrected a formatting error in the first chapter (apologies about that, it didn’t show up in the original file). It’s now available on Kindle and also on Smashwords in multiple formats. A paperback edition is coming soon and a related pocket book called ‘Being The Tao’. I will be posting more from it soon. Enjoy.